Voices Ignored

Posted: May 24, 2010 in news
Tags: , , , ,

I suspect that we quiet the voice.

We may even seize it, smother it, yank it out from under the pillow and beat it into silence.

A rather fascinating case study of this is professional cyclist Floyd Landis. Floyd won the 2006 Tour de France, but was shortly thereafter stripped of his Tour title for doping. He tested positive for synthetic testosterone after Stage 17. At that point he went into hyper-defensive mode, mounting a vigorous defense maintaining his innocence, even a 320 page book, Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France.

But recently, Floyd has dropped his long time protestations of innocence and confessed to doping throughout his career. He recently wrote up a series of e-mails to cycling officials and sponsors detailing his use of banned drugs.  He has broken the cycling code of silence on drugs, but he has broken more that that too.

It’s interesting, what we do with what we do wrong. Store it in a secret place, maintain our innocence, lead other people to believe our lie and profit from it.

There is a lot of indignation and anger now over Landis, and I understand this. He ripped us off, even taking a significant amount of money from donors supporting his quest to prove himself innocent. But really, few of us can honestly say we don’t understand how Floyd Landis could do this. It’s simple: profit motivates. Lies come easily to many people when there is a check and a place in history to gain.  

I don’t feel superior. None of us should.  I don’t have a big secret, most of us don’t. But which one of us hasn’t indulged in some behavior or thinking that didn’t meet the standard? And which of us has not been completely forthcoming so that we could preserve or gain something?

We tend to minimize our wrong doing, push off the uncomfortable feelings of guilt, talk over the voice of correction that seems to be so easily be bludgeoned and quieted into oblivion.

“I don’t feel guilty at all about having doped,” Landis told ESPN.com. “I did what I did because that’s what we [cyclists] did and it was a choice I had to make after 10 years or 12 years of hard work to get there; and that was a decision I had to make to make the next step. My choices were, do it and see if I can win, or don’t do it and I tell people I just don’t want to do that, and I decided to do it.”

Interesting.  People gave their money to support him. People cheered him on.  People invested time and money in his defense. People are hurt, and Floyd doesn’t feel, guilty.

But despite the blustering, the fumbling attempts at honesty, I bet that privately Landis has taken himself to task for all this. What a mess.  This has to be embarrassing, acutely agonizing for him at some level. He not only lost his Tour title, but also his marriage, his savings, and his credibility.

What’s at the bottom of this?

I have been thinking lately about how we avoid the voice, and the voices.  

That voice is the one that comes from within, from what we call our conscience. Most of us have been taught that honesty is best.  Landis was surely taught this in his Mennonite upbringing. Most of us believe that the sports playing field should not include banned performance enhancers.  And most of us hear a voice within when we lie or cheat that says, “This is not so good. This is wrong. This is something I should not do or that I should stop doing. “

Landis heard that voice of conscience, and he beat it down. “Others do it. You have to do it to win. I’m just leveling the playing field.”  He made wrong right in his mind.

Interesting. But conscience isn’t the only voice he ignored.

 There are two more.

The second voice Landis pushed away is the organized voice of the community. It is the voice of the race organizers, the voice that sets the rules and awards the winners and the voice of the spectators, cheering on the race. That voice said, “No,” ahead of time, no to banned substances, no to cheating and no to lying. Landis totally discounted that collective voice.

Therein lays the angry news reports and the public indignation. We said we didn’t want this in the sport, and he ignored that while pretending he didn’t.  What must Landis’s co-author of his book be thinking? All those interviews, all those hours of research, all that trust that Landis was telling the truth to the public – trashed by his eventual neck-wrenching flip-flop.

This kind of deafness to what others require, what they need and want, is abusive.

The last voice Floyd pushed aside, God’s. “Don’t lie,’ goes the ninth commandment. Faith and sport cross paths here. As God knew before cycling existed, lying is really common,  but it makes a muck of things pretty much everywhere it occurs. There is good reason why many athletes pray and teams hold devotions. The playing field includes huge pot holes to fall into, but divine help and godly morality really help keep things safe and sane.

“I am innocent,” Floyd has said. “I am not innocent, “Floyd has said.

In the end, perhaps the most appropriate reaction is grief.

Important voices were ignored.

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